It's been seven years since we heard from Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter. Luckily, the Seattle artist recently returned with a new song titled “Dewayne,” which Sykes has quite a bit to say about, all of which is worth the read:
“I wrote a love song to Seattle through a gritty and dusty old lens…and sung through the heart of a boy named Dewayne Pomeroy. Dewayne was one of the street kids in the famous documentary "Streetwise" (directed by Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell in 1984), back when Pike and Pine street were the stomping grounds for some hard core darkness—including a lot of teenage prostitution, when the kids referred to the men that preyed on young boys as “chicken hawks”. Dewayne committed suicide the day before he turned seventeen, which was also the day before he was to be released from juvenile retention. He didn’t want to return to the struggle of life on the streets. The only people attending the funeral were three social workers. Dewayne’s parole officer spread his ashes in the Puget Sound
When I came to Seattle in 1990 my first job was working the coffee counter at the Athenian Inn at Pike Place Market. We served 15 cent coffee and 40 cent beer, starting at 6:30 a.m. and it was mostly the homeless that came that early in the morning—the long line already formed at the door an hour before opening time. It was in the days when everyone knew all the homeless folk by name and you also knew their stories. The Athenian was like a home to many of these people—they’d come in several times a day and on occasion I’d serve coffee for some of the “Streetwise kids”.
It was a hardcore place back then—people literally dropped dead on their bar stools and most of the people waiting tables, myself included, were intoxicated by noon. To this day when I go downtown, I still feel that same underlying energy. They can shine all the granite and bulldoze the charming old buildings, but the heart and soul of downtown Seattle, the underbelly of grit and sorrow, remains a part of the city.
So when you look out onto that great body of water that seemingly stays the same while everything surrounding it changes at break-neck speed, and the numbers of homeless proliferate just as quickly, think of Dewayne and all of the other lost souls that still wander the streets of Seattle, even more incongruous and discarded than ever, and think of the words of Dewayne’s parole officer ”Dewayne is finally free and he’d never been free before.”
Watch Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter’s 2011 KEXP in-studio performance below.
Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is "Getting in a Van Again" by Fruit Bats, a 2018 single on Merge Records.
Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is "Ordinary Pleasure" by Toro Y Moi, from the 2019 album Outer Peace on Carpark Records.
Today’s song, featured on The Morning Show with John Richards, is "Set a Course" by Telekinesis, from the 2019 album Effluxion on Merge Records.